Live Blog From DISD Board Meeting

1:55 — Jim Schutze and I both got here too late to get a seat. Six TV news cameras. We have to stand behind them, up against the back wall. Fittingly, he’s on one side of the aisle, and I’m on the other.

2:02 — Bill Zeeble is here, takes up spot on floor, right in the middle of the aisle. Also fitting.

2:03 — Garza not here as meeting begins. Ranger moves to take meeting to the auditorium, to accommodate overflow crowd. No go. Presumably to avoid circus atmosphere?

2:05 — Lowe says: “We are here to confront the brutal facts but not lose faith.”

2:06 — Jerome Garza finally shows up. No one asks why the trustee couldn’t be here on time.

2:10 — Carla Ranger stops it down to recognize elected officials present. One of whom is not Trustee Edwin Flores.

2:11 — Hinojosa says he’s taking a 5 percent pay cut and that other brass are doing the same. Carla Ranger is not standing to applaud.

2:27 — Hinojosa is wrapping up the rough outline of his plan. You’ll read more about that later. It’s complicated. Teachers will be fired. One piece of good news: enrollment is up. Too early to get excited, but that could mean more money.

2:36 — Garza: “If you think what’s happening on Wall Street is bad, wait till you see what happens to education in Texas if Austin doesn’t do something.”

2:39 — Staff is now taking questions from trustees. How’d this mess happen? “Creep.” We’ve had too much creep. Lack of control over positions. Principals going to budget office and asking for teachers they shouldn’t have had.

2:45 — Trustee Lew Blackburn, with just a little bit of work, could do a great Jesse Jackson.

2:47 — Carla Ranger’s husband is sitting in the back row, peering over his glasses, taking VERY thorough notes. If there are any reporters who missed something, ask him.

2:49 — Brett Shipp just ducked in to ask his photog something. Then he left, presumably to return to the party ball he has out in the news truck.

2:50 — Jay Gormley is in the house, chewing gum like a madman. “They brought me all the way back from Galveston for this,” he says.

2:52 — Carla Ranger asks a question of Hinojosa that can be summed up this way: $64 million is a lot of money, isn’t it? There is a woman in the second row, wearing an orange sweater, who is doing a pentecostal church thing. Every time Ranger says something, the woman in orange goes, “U-huh. Mmm. That’s right.”

2:58 — Trustee Nancy Bingham says she won’t travel for the next two years that she sits on the board.

3:00 — Trustees Ellis and Medrano have so far said nothing. C’mon, guys! Get in there. Mix it up.

3:03 — Trustee Garza says before he cuts one teacher, he wants to look at how many coaches are on the org chart. He gets an “uh-HUH” from the gallery. Ron Price immediately says athletics aren’t going anywhere.

3:06 — Jim Schutze just ducked out. As he passed me, he said in a stage whisper, “Dude, I hear Shipp has a party ball in the truck.” (I might be making this up.)

3:10 — Ellis is now the only trustee yet to speak. When she does, it better be worth the wait.

3:11 — An older woman sitting in the back row just farted loudly enough that at least 10 people had to hear it. Bill Zeeble is sitting on the floor right next to her. He HAD to hear it. But everyone is pretending nothing happened. I applaud your work, ma’am.

3:17 — Zeeble brought snacks in his gear bag. Strong move.

3:22 — Trustee Ron Price suggests cutting the number of collaborative planning periods and says cutting one would save the district $24 million. As Hinojosa points out, the district doesn’t pay teachers by the planning period; it hires them for a year. In other words, the idea doesn’t make much sense.

3:26 — Hinojosa finally seems to get sick of all the silly questions from the trustees. More or less: “We can find all the paperclips and rubberbands. It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get this thing in shape. It’s gonna hurt. But we’ve got to do it.” Meaning: fire people.

3:29 — Except Trustee Ranger wants to know now whether we can fix this without firing teachers. “What about the $100 million in consultants?” she asks. Board President Jack Lowe has a look on his face that, if I read it correctly, says, “Someone remind me why I’m not at TDIndistries right now.” Then his mouth says, “We don’t spend $100 million on consultants.”

3:32 — Trustee Ellis finally speaks. She reminds everyone that she nearly ran down the district’s CFO in the parking lot coming back from lunch. Then she says something along the lines of “I hope we are trying as hard as we can.” Jack Lowe makes that same face.

3:44 — Ron Price likes to say the word “hell” a lot. I like his moxie.

3:45 — Trustee Blackburn is talking about getting rid of employees who don’t teach, who show up on campuses and don’t do anything. A woman in the gallery wearing a sherbet green jacket is blowing him loud kisses. I’m not exaggerating.

3:49 — A DISD cop standing against the back wall leans against a switch and, for a moment, turns of the lights.

3:52 — Ron Price calls Hinojosa “soop,” short for superintendent. Beneath Hinojosa’s gray mustache lurks contempt for Price. Maybe I’m mistaken. But I don’t think so.

3:54 — Ah ha! There it is. I wondered how long it would take before someone brought up race. Thank you, Ron Price. He wants to know the ethnicity of everyone who might be fired. He wants it “fair and not like the last time.”

4:04 — You know who strikes me as a total badass? Like she might be able to whip every trustee in hand-to-hand combat — all at once? Retired Air Force Colonel Kim Olson, the head of HR. I’m not kidding about this.

4:11 — Camerawoman in back is sitting on the ground, playing Brickbreaker on her BlackBerry.

4:15 — Olson says that at this point last year the district had 200 employees on paid administrative leave, at a cost of $2.5 million. There are now 38.

4:20 — The gallery has thinned a little. Chairs have emptied. Brett Shipp takes one in the front row and crosses his legs to show everyone that he’s wearing expensive ostrich-skin cowboy boots. Kim Olson could drop him with one punch.

4:25 — Okay, since Ron Price brought it up, let’s talk race. There are about 50 spectators in the gallery. Thirteen are media people. The other 40 or so are nearly all black folks. Employees of the district? Parents? I don’t know. But given the racial makeup of the district’s student population, I find it curious. Not saying it MEANS anything. IJS.

4:35 — Trustee Ranger is telling Hinojosa that all the trustees should have gotten the bad news when President Lowe did. He knew a day or two before she did, and Ranger seems to feel slighted. So there’s that.

4:38 — Blackburn, Ellis, and Garza have all repaired to an antechamber while Ranger continues an impressive filibuster.

4:43 — Ranger tags Price, who comes flying off the turnbuckle and drops another H-bomb. (His fifth of the meeting? Sixth?) He reiterates his concern about the racial makeup of those who might be fired.

4:46 — Hinojosa is trying manfully to end this thing. Maybe they don’t need to vote on the exigency issue today? Ellis says she needs more specifics before she votes. Hinojosa says she’ll have everything she needs by next Thursday. Ranger wants to know what’s happening next Thursday. Keep in mind, it has been mentioned no fewer than a dozen times in THIS meeting that the board would meet next Thursday. Jack Lowe calmly says, “The board is meeting next Thursday. It was in the board update.”

4:50 — The board struggles for about four minutes to end the meeting. Somebody moves. Then there is a re-move. They are struggling with Robert’s Rules of Order, totally bogging down. Three district attorneys in a corner try to untangle the procedural matter. It’s unclear what’s happening or what CAN happen. But it looks like this meeting might end with the board having accomplished, essentially, nothing. Jack Lowe wants to declare a state of financial exigency NOW. As he points out, there IS an exigency. So let’s declare it — and not act on it.

4:56 — They declare a state of exigency but DO NOT direct the district to start cutting. And there you have it. They kinda did something, and they kinda didn’t.

5:01 — Overheard TV reporter in front of administration building, into cell phone: “It’s all about some word that no one can pronounce.”

Bill Zeeble
 
Got your mast up?
 
Brett Shipp fixes his hair and mumbles to himself about how he misses Macie Jepson.

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Comments

46 responses to “Live Blog From DISD Board Meeting”

  1. LakeWWWooder says:

    64% pay cut is the number I am thinking…

  2. LakeWWWooder says:

    Is it a little scary when you know your Lakewood PTA ladies from the backs of their heads?

  3. How is fewer teachers and more students something to get excited about again?

  4. BP says:

    @ Trey – quit thinking so hard. It’s much more relaxing, believe me.

  5. China says:

    can someone link me to a good summary how they missed $64 million? I don’t get it

  6. Rawlins Gilliland says:

    I have friends and neighbors whose livlihood and professional careers (and yes visa status requirements) are tied to DISD. To them, this ‘mistake’ and upcoming purge is no less threatening than a terrorist attack. This is a low blow turn of events.

    A lot of effort…and I assume with it money…was spent ‘recruiting’ new teachers to DISD…including I believe Puerto Rico and Mexico. Among other concerns (okay, fears) in the fine print here is that people have relocated with or without signing bonuses only to be cut loose.

    SURELY there is an answer to this shortfall in the interim, and answers to how it happened later on. There is a human factor afoot here, not the least of which is our kids and the curriculum panoply and classroom size.

  7. Amy S says:

    Can we have a vote on how many people think it was crazy that this group of board members had $125 million of taxpayer dollars sitting (not for pensions, not for construction) on the sidelines in the first place? Was this the right way to grow DISD?

  8. Amy S says:

    3:12-and-a-half – I just peed my pants from laughing!

  9. yikesdallas says:

    3:03 – Trustee Garza says before he cuts one teacher, he wants to look at how many coaches are on the org chart. He gets an “uh-HUH” from the gallery. Ron Price immediately say athletics aren’t going anywhere.

    As if there weren’t enough reasons already for Price to be gone, that statement SHOULD make it loud and clear. And I doubt he’ll be cutting back on his exhorbitant travel expenditures, otherwise he would have to close his “consulting” business.

  10. DLP says:

    Nice camera work!

  11. Sharon Boyd says:

    LakeWWWooder — you read my mind. 5% of $300K is only $15,000 — Dr. H won’t even miss it. Cut his salary by at least 50%, but preferably 64% as LWWW suggests. With that kind of pain, Dr. H might start looking at the financial forms on a more regular basis.

    Leave the teachers and coaches alone — go after the administrators. Speaking of going, Dr. H needs to go and President Lowe needs to resign for refusing to ask for Dr. H’s resignation.

  12. East Is Eden. says:

    The principals I know can run their schools WITHOUT the administration. They are just getting in the way. So get out of the way before we decide to break up this district into smaller ones.

  13. Bethany says:

    Who is Nicole, and why don’t they want her to dine?

  14. Sky Masterson says:

    Kids living outside DISD can attend DISD magnet schools and it’s illegal to charge them? Seriously?

  15. Sky Masterson says:

    Whoa–What happened to Tim’s 3:40 entry that my comment above relates to?

  16. Dave Thomas says:

    Here’s how to fix this problem without firing teachers:

    Cut Hinojosa’s salary in half.

    Cut half the staff at the district headquarters.

    Cut all sports – today. Cancel tonight’s games. No football, no basketball, baseball, soccer, etc for the rest of the school year.

    Many of the coaches are also teachers. They could keep them teaching and just cut out the pay they get for coaching. More importantly, the district won’t be paying to drive teams all over the place, run the stadiums, etc. It’s a cost they simply cannot afford right now.

    Cancel all travel reimbursements for anyone in the district. (there’s lot of abuse there)

    Cancel all district credit cards. (remember that mess?)

    Cancel all district cell phones. (most people have personal cell phones)

  17. Dave Thomas says:

    Who is Bill Zeeble?

  18. jamesn says:

    Sky: Yes and yes (IIRC, it’s smaller districts in the area that don’t have magnet programs — I’m sure Eric will correct me if I’m wrong), but the state and their home school districts pay instead. It’s not like there’s no money changing hands for that.

    Ron Price also suggested firing teachers who don’t live in the district first because they don’t pay taxes to the district. By that logic any one who works for disd and doesn’t own their home should go to, right? Can we start with the board members who are renters?

  19. billh says:

    Dave, I’d vote for you today for super. You are right on. What kind of people say, cut instructors, but don’t touch coaches.

    I feel totally sad about this. Very very sad.

    As far as out of district at magnets, I fail to see why you couldn’t charge for that. I have heard there are lots of out of district kids at Booker T. I think they do pay some sort of ‘fee’.

  20. billh says:

    Bill Zeeble is at KERA

  21. umm yeah says:

    No sports must stay!!…but math, who uses that stuff, its called a calculator…all in favor of cutting out math and its teachers!

    – I

  22. toddcarruth says:

    The only cut that I agree with includes cheese.
    Badump-bump.

  23. Rawlins Gilliland says:

    Zeeble just on air but learned more reading this blog. 5% off anyone’s salary is nothing. I take more than a 5% decrease in earnings everytime I go to Sam’s and see what that bag of whatever or that box or bottle cost this time last fall.

    As someone who once lived and died by corporate budgets, the BRAVE and real ideas are in Dave Thomas’ post. That’s what one does when there is a REAL emergency. (Like, would the USA go to war and maintain tax cuts rather than increase revenue to pay for it? Never…!) Gotta pay for emergency shorfalls with emergency measures. You don’t get rid of a bloated cow by feeding it more hay.

    Hinojosa has been a god-send in many ways that are too mant to count so do not shoot Joan of Arc even as she burns. But if the answer here is to emphasize teachers firings over bureaucratic intrenched, heaven help us.

  24. yikesdallas says:

    Yup! There it is!

    Ron Price: “Don’t tighten the screws too much on travel”

  25. Nancy Nichols says:

    Timmy, really nice typing. I mean it. Serious workage.

  26. notyikesdallas says:

    The staff in DISD remains African-American, while the student population has turned Hispanic. Hence, the audience. The fact that Hispanic parents are not there is probably the travesty…

  27. publicnewsense says:

    Notyikes…the parents are probably working. That occur to you? What kind of public body has meetings in the daytime when the citizen/taxypayers can’t attent?

  28. Tim Rogers says:

    @ Dave Thomas: That is a really interesting suggestion. Suspend all athletics right now. Here’s why I think that might backfire: a lot of kids stay in school just so they can play on their various teams. You cut the sports, the kids might stop coming to school.

    But I’m still intrigued by the idea. It deserves to be explored.

  29. I disagree Tim. I mean, cut the BS athletics, maybe, but not the serious ones like football and basketball. After spending time with four principals at four of the most challenged DISD schools, I learned how critical to both self-esteem and spirit the athletics are.

    Sometimes school pride is the only positive things these kids have in their lives — their schools being nicer than their homes and their teachers/principals being more involved in their lives more than their parents.

    At South Oak Cliff, they have two of the biggest four challenges schools face licked: discipline and facilities. Drop out rates and academics are what they’re working on. South Oak Cliff has a respectable athletic program that instills a sense of pride for these kids. The principal uses that to inspire them in athletics: “We need to be champions on the field and in the classroom.”

    There’s plenty of fat in the district budget that can be cut before you start cutting athletics.

    On a bigger picture note, and I’ll write about this sometime, but I still think the best bet is breaking up the district into four or five smaller districts is the best fix for DISD. The challenges of schools in southeast Dallas are different from the challenges in southwest Dallas, East Dallas, or North Dallas.

    DISD is just too big and faces too many diverse problems to run it from a centralized bureaucracy.

  30. inspire them in athletics=inspire them in academics

  31. URBAN YOKEL says:

    Unexpected depth from Trey. I thought the DISD was only a Potemkin Village to him.

  32. Look, I’m not going to enroll my kid there and the administration is a goddam mess. I’m also cognizant of the fact there are good people at the school level trying their hardest for these kids. One doesn’t cancel out the other.

    In fact you’d do better eliminating the entire administration, and turning the money over to each school on a per pupil ratio, and then let the principals be the gods of their schools answering to no one but parents.

    But my Potemkin Village comment as things are stands — since that column we’ve had the grading policy mess and the $64 million boner. We’re on a 30-day countdown to the next big announcement.

    Recognizing there are some in the district trying to turn it around doesn’t change the fact that it needs turning around, and that turnaround won’t happen by the time my daughter (kindergartener) graduates high school.

  33. URBAN YOKEL says:

    I suppose ‘cut and run’ is what most people would do.

  34. Trig says:

    Given the low parental concern in the face of a failing dropout rate, what the DISD really amounts to is expensive taxpayer paid day care overseen by overpaid PhD’s for working couples that don’t have to be paid wages that day care would require. The goodhearted fools that keep wanting to believe it’s education in the face of all the facts to the contrary insure that the scam can continue safely for generations.

  35. @Urban Yokel

    I’m supposed to gamble my daughter’s future on a social experiment or for the sake of social consciousness?

    I don’t think so.

  36. jrp says:

    Colonel Olson = awesomeness

  37. Dave Thomas says:

    I have a slight compromise on sports to offer: they can keep playing as long as the district doesn’t have to pay a dime. In other words the kids and coaches are going to have to pay their own way to the games. Someone’s going to have to find a free place to play..etc. Would the PTA be willing to pitch in to help out on something like that? Maybe. I hope so.

    Look, I agree that the athletic programs are important at these schools. But the educational programs are more important. It’s a little hard to explain to a bunch of teachers at a school why you had to cut their jobs so that the kids could keep playing a game.

  38. Amy S says:

    @Dave, you are under the misinformation that many of the PTA’s have any money to speak of. At Hillcrest, the absolute best year ever fundraiser raised a total of $80,000, and $40,000 of that came from the auction of a Richard Petty autographed helmet – a once in a lifetime donation for our school. And it’s not from a lack of trying – we are constantly looking for ways to fund group activities – the money goes so fast. I’ve been to private school fundraisers that have raised funds in the millions in one evening.

    Here’s what I’d suggest, let’s set the cost to educate a child equal to the average state private school tuition. Then, what property taxes don’t raise, the state kicks in. I mean doesn’t the “open market” set the true price of products? Before we start discussing school vouchers and splitting up the district (like 4 or 5 seperate administrative offices are going to run MORE efficiently?) why don’t we have an honest discussion on what it really costs to educate a child.

    And yes, this should include a base amount for extracurricular, like sports, art, music. All of these venues can lead to good careers, why do we limit it only to career paths that involve books?

    And what have you done lately to help your public school? As long as your input is being offered as to a solution I think the question is a fair one.

  39. the long-time teacher says:

    I wonder how many of you have an idea about how low teacher morale is at the moment . . . and not just because of the financial fiasco. The amount of time and money spent on meetings teachers must attend in order to learn about all the additional paper work they must do is almost overwhelming. And it takes away from the real teaching prep and the actual teaching. There are a number of “instructional specialists” who come onto campuses, interrupting classes to tell teachers about new paper work required. They need to go.
    And 5%? Hinojosa could’ve gotten a whole lot of teacher support if he had made a meaningful cut to his own salary. He chose not to. Athletics? Ask some real classroom high school teachers about the number of coaches just sitting around in the athletic director’s “office” during 3 or 4 periods a day, but still getting lots of extra pay. Find out the ratio of coaches to certified teachers in each school. And then check those numbers from someone besides the p.r. DISD spokesperson.
    Who are the people left out of making any decisions regarding the immediate business of educating your children? The teachers, of course.
    I survived 37 years of teaching by asking myself, “What is most important to teaching the kids in my classroom?” and then disregarding the rest. Good principals respect that.

  40. yikesdallas says:

    It’s depressing that we have a board trying to run things when the majority of them either aren’t the brightest of the bunch (Medrano), or are only in it to pad their own pockets (Ron Price – I’m talkin’ to you…or should I write that in Spanish, since you claim that’s your first language)

    Then we have a superintendent who – no matter that his intentions may be the best – is apparently clueless when it comes to making personnel decisions (Viramontes x 2?).

    THEN we have all the consultants and trainers and specialists who get paid to basically drain teachers of all their time without making any contribution whatsoever.

    PLUS there’s all the employees who get paid to not work. Why is the DISD contractually obligated to pay those people when they apparently are NOT obligated to live up to the contracts they have signed with teachers?

    And long-time teacher is right: there are so many “coaches” who are actually a negative in the classroom (what few classes they teach) yet are getting paid extra. Does a school really need 8-10 football coaches?

    It’s disturbing that no one has the guts to make the tough decisions to save teachers and cut all the administrators and consultants and hangers-on that are making no contribution to the educational process.

    But heaven forbid we cut Ron Price’s travel expenditures!!!

  41. Amy S says:

    The absolutely best three teachers I ever had (math, math and science) were all also coaches (and I played no sports). They emphasized drilling to learn, teamwork to succeed and empowering to win.

  42. Bethany says:

    The BS sports – would those be the girl ones?

    Some of the things most people consider BS, if cut, would cost more. It’s called Title IX.

  43. Tobie says:

    take out the coaches, you take away the discipline.

    ask any teacher/administrator who gets called first when a fight breaks out, it’s not the math teacher (who isn’t a coach), its the coaching staff.

    as for cell phones, unless they’re an administrator, the personal cell phones come out of the teacher’s pockets. The teacher just gets a DISD negotiated discount w/AT&T.

    everything I’ve read over the past few days points to non-core teachers (media, counselors etc.) getting the cut, not core teachers (many of which are coaches)

    as for cutting athletics altogether…i agree with what many have said in their responses: cut athletics, cut the proverbial ‘carrot’ for many kids to stay in school. Additionally, taking away sports, takes away the after-school refuge for a lot of students and puts them in the streets.

  44. ross flunker says:

    To all you anti sports people out there and to the long term teacher, you guys outta be ashamed of yourselves!
    I can’t believe you would insult the teaching ability of coaches in Dallas ISD, pull up the cei index and the TAKS passing rates and you will find them at the top of the list. Mrs long term memory failure, when something bad happened at your school, who took care of the problem for you? I bet your ole crusty a_ _ it was a coach. These are the men and women that are the most dedicated people addressing the needs of your children and providing the safety net at your school.
    If you think DISD is spending huge sums of money on athletics you have to be smoking crack! Less than 1/2 of 1% is allocated toward athletics, who do you think already pays entry fees and travel expenes.
    Who do you think spends thousands of hours turning boys into young men. These people get paid maybe a dollar and hour for the time they spend.If that is too much for you to spend on something positive then move to New York, Chicago, Boston, and any other inner city school in America, where they have done just what you are suggesting!
    The root of the problem is not extracurriculars, it is 121 million in consulting fees, too many administrators, and the 50+ million they waste on staff development and pet projrects.
    I hope all of you communists that hate sports have a nice day! You better hire extra police to protect your children and homes when you kill sports in Dallas!

  45. mymnafersar says:

    Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.